So, you’re building or upgrading a PC gaming set-up. There’s one place to start — after the barebone basics of the actual PC itself and monitor — and that’s a graphics card.
But we know the big problem, too. With so much tech available, and with rapidly-accelerating specifications and capabilities, it’s easy to get blinded by the science. That’s why we’re here to help and put you in the picture with the very best graphics cards on the market.
In case you’re new to PC gaming, or need a refresher, here’s some handy information to get you started.
What is a graphics card?
A graphics card — also known as a GPU — is one of the most important parts of any PC. It works alongside the CPU (or processor) to turn data into images. The best graphics cards process data at a faster rate and make those images sharper and more realistic. Modern graphics cards are capable of processing incredible 3D images with an almost non-existent lag between the commands you physically input into a controller or keyboard and what happens on the monitor.
Do you really need a graphics card?
If you’re a reasonably enthusiastic PC gamer, then yes. Games are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with ever improving 4K and ray tracing, so you’ll need the hardware to keep up with the pace. Gamers are familiar with upgrading their machines regularly and the graphics card is the key component in next gen-level gaming.
Are graphics cards only for gamers?
Graphics cards are widely associated with gaming and that’s where most of the power lies. However, graphics cards can be important for creative professionals and designers too, with processing capabilities for video editing and decoding, 3D rendering, and graphic design-based apps. If you are upgrading your GPU for creative design work, be sure to check that it’s made with those tasks in mind. Many graphics cards are geared towards gaming only.
How much does a graphics card cost?
If you’re new to building a gaming PC, prepare yourself for a serious hit to your wallet. If you’re a veteran, you’ll know the cost of a good GPU already. Indeed, graphics cards — at least, very good quality graphics cards — do not come cheap. Prepare to pay anything from £500 upwards (and we do mean upwards) for a decent option. However, don’t despair if you’re a newbie and want to get started by spending less. There’s a GPU on this list that costs under £200. Just don’t expect it to be a long-term option if you’re serious about gaming.
Does Nvidia make the best graphics cards?
A cursory glance at online reviews would suggest that to be the case. Nvidia GeForce GPUs lead the pack, certainly in the mid-range and premium end of the market. That doesn’t mean you have to pay big bucks for the best Nvidia GeForce. AMD offer good options, particularly at lower price points.
What are third party graphics cards?
This is when another manufacturer uses the GPU of a top brand — such as Nvidia and AMD — to create its own version. These are perfectly acceptable and in some cases more readily available. When Nvidia drops a new product, for instance, they can be like gold dust. In which case it’s easier to get a third party version. We have included several third party GPUs in this roundup.
What is the best graphics card?
That’s really for you to decide, based on the specifications and requirements of your PC set-up. What we can tell you, however, is that we’ve done the work of researching for you. We’ve scanned the internet and reviews to find the best options for a range of GPU needs.
These are the best graphics cards in 2022.